President Abdel Sisi of Egypt on Monday pardoned 203 youths that were jailed for taking part in demonstrations. The state news agency MENA said this was as a part of a pledge he made months ago to amend a protest law. No official list of names has been made available yet.
Sisi promised in October to amend a law on assembly and protests, which rights groups say is severely restrictive and critics condemn as unconstitutional.
He also hinted at possible pardons for youths who had demonstrated against his rule. Sisi does not have the authority to interfere in Egypt’s judicial processes but can issue pardons. In November, he pardoned 82 prisoners, mostly university students.
Since seizing power in mid-2013 from the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi has presided over a crackdown on his Islamist opponents that has seen hundreds killed and many thousands jailed. But the dragnet has since widened to include secular and liberal activists at the forefront of the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years in power.
A law requiring permission from the Interior Ministry for any public gathering of more than 10 people is strictly enforced and has largely succeeded in ending the kind of mass demonstrations that helped unseat two presidents in three years.
Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court upheld the law in December but said that an article granting the Interior Ministry authority to deny protest requests was unconstitutional.
The law imposes jail sentences on those who violate a broad list of protest restrictions, and allows security forces to disperse illegal demonstrations with water cannon, tear gas, and birdshot.
The court’s ruling kept all of these elements of the law intact and there is no further appeal.
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